Relocation Blues

by Russ Westcott

Assume you’ve been downsized or are about to be. What word evokes a flood of emotion? Relocation.

Say you’ve done the research within your competency and geographic location and are now down to two options:

  1. Bagging groceries, flipping hamburgers or delivering newspapers.
  2. Relocating to a place that has a job with a commensurate or livable salary.

Your spouse’s enjoyable but low paying job at the craft center can’t support your family by itself. Face up to the dilemma. You’ve got to move to a place that has work for you. Loss of your job is bad enough; now you have to consider the abandonment of many of your family’s vital links to its well-being, such as:

  • Proximity of family and friends.
  • Children’s involvement in school activities.
  • Spouse’s satisfying work environment.
  • Religious, civic and leisure affiliations.
  • Established relationships with professionals, such as doctors and attorneys.
  • Living quarters that represent a heavy investment in time and money to acquire and maintain, and for which there is a strong emotional bond.
  • Desirable neighborhood in which your family feels comfortable.

These are a few of the links that will be severed by your relocation. The physical disruption is a little less difficult to deal with than the psychological loss of support systems—once transparent but now painfully visible. This collective environment, represented by the people, places and things that are part of everyday living, helps identify and confirm who we are and what we stand for. Relocation threatens all that.

While it is probably true for most that “home is where the heart is” or “home is where you hang your hat,” the adjustment to a new life in a new place takes time and inflicts pain in the process.

I’m currently living in the 13th home since my birth. Some of the moves, before marriage and family, were exciting and mostly pleasurable. Moves after marriage and family have been mostly rewarding for me professionally but have exacted a tremendous negative impact on my family.

Is the Risk Worth It?

So, back to the question: Do you stay put, hunker down and hope for the best or gamble on the future and take that job across the country? It’s a decision that will be based on emotion—yours and that of significant others who will be affected—as well as cold, hard facts.

For one thing, the longer you wait (job hunting while renting yourself out for day labor), the deeper the cut into any available funds you may have had on D-Day. And, if the odds are stacked high that you won’t find a comparably paying job within your field of competency and in your geographic location, you’ll have to expand your search.

One glaring reason for not waiting until you’ve hit bottom financially is that it takes money to find a job:

  • Travel costs (unless you have a unique talent urgently needed by the faraway organization, you’ll probably have to pay your own way to the interview).
  • Making contacts involves postage, phone calls, e-mail provider costs—even keeping up your appearance costs money.

Once you have landed the new job, the expenses escalate. Examples are:

  • Travel expenses for you and your spouse on a house hunting trip.
  • Temporary lodging and meals for you at new location while awaiting sale of your present home and acquisition of a new home.
  • Travel between your old and new location to attend to family matters.
  • Legal and inspection fees (for selling present home and buying new home).
  • The cost of moving your possessions to your new location and possible temporary storage if your old home is sold and the new home is not yet available.
  • Repairs and refurbishing costs at your new home.

Weigh the added costs of relocation and delayed restoration of savings against family financial plans, for example your children’s education, long-term care for parents or a family vacation.

While there may be some exuberance in taking on a new challenge in an all new environment, there are also a lot of stressful worries, potential glitches and fear of the unknown. One of the largest fears is job security on the new job. You’re the last hired.

Worst Case Scenarios

My clients’ files are sprinkled with cases in which the job didn’t work out. The new hire misunderstood the requirements, the new hire didn’t have the competency to do the job, the work environment was intolerable, or the organization suddenly went bankrupt, was sold off or merged. One case was particularly bad:

A man received and accepted a job offer. Anxious to get the move over in time for the start of school, he waived the time to travel east to house hunt. He sold his home, packed up his family and possessions and headed to New York (from California).

Expecting to be met at the airport, this man frantically called his would-be employer. He learned that in the one-week interim while he was moving the firm had gone out of business. His new immediate boss couldn’t be blamed. He didn’t know, either. Our man and his family were stranded in New York without a job or a place to live, and his family’s possessions were on their way east to a storage facility.

The lesson to be learned is to try out the new job for at least two weeks before relocating your entire family. And, have a “plan B.” Remember, no matter how diligently you research your potential employer and the open position, there will be aspects about the job that will remain hidden until after you report for work.

For example: Work hours are stated as 9 to 5. You take the job and find everyone is expected to be at work by 8:15 at the latest and stay until 6 or 6:30. Or, you ultimately learn the smiling boss who interviewed you be-haves like a raving tyrant when things are not done his or her way.


Relocation pointers include:

  • Realize if you think the pay offered is insufficient, the only room for negotiation is before you accept the job offer.
  • Try to identify the interviewer’s hot buttons you can specifically address with your competency and create a need to hire you.
  • With the organization’s need for you established, try to negotiate as much reimbursement of your relocation expenses as possible—without losing the job offer.

These relocation expenses include those mentioned earlier plus travel for family to the new location, meals and lodging for family while awaiting access to the new home and coverage for loss on the sale of your existing home.

If needed, try to obtain assurance of your new employer’s assistance in finding a suitable job for your spouse. If the new position is overseas, negotiate for a reasonable number of return trips for you and family.

Finding a job is hard enough. Making a relocation decision is even more difficult. Do the research. Try to decide wisely and early enough to avert financial disaster. And, good luck.

RUSSELL T. WESTCOTT is president of the Offerjost-Westcott Group (OWG), a division of R.T. Westcott & Associates, Old Saybrook, CT. OWG provides work-life planning, guidance and coaching. Westcott co-edited The Certified Quality Manager Handbook, second edition, the Certified Quality Manager Section Refresher Training Course and The Quality Improvement Handbook. He wrote Simplified Project Management for the Quality Professional and Stepping Up to ISO 9004:2000. Westcott is an ASQ Fellow, certified quality auditor and certified quality manager. He serves on the Thames Valley Section’s executive board as newsletter editor and job leads chair.

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